…I suppose that day in Houston in 1955 began like any other day. My brother, Billy, age four, and I, age two and a half, would have bounded out of bed early. I understand that, on this particular day, Billy went to a playmate’s house. As usual, Daddy would have driven off to work as a geologist at an oil well for Shell. I’m sure I watched his brand new car as he backed down the driveway. He always honked as he turned onto the street.
Later that morning, Momma said she was reading to me on the fluffy gray sofa in the living room. She said I had refused to change out of my pink nightgown and insisted on wearing my red rubber rain boots even though it was a sunny day.
She read from “A Child’s Garden of Verses:” “I’m hiding, I’m hiding and no one knows where; For all they can see are my toes and my hair.”
The doorbell rang. I jumped up and ran to the door in my red rubber rain boots and opened it. Our white cocker spaniel, Snowy, flew to the door with me barking fiercely. Snowy shot right on outside.
“Hooray, it’s the plumber! He’s going to fix the kitchen sink,” Momma said. ”I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to pour hot grease down the kitchen sink. By the way, I’m Mary Jean Paul and this is Peggy.”
“I’m Mark,” the plumber said.
…We stood in my mother’s living room and she said, “I’m getting in bed, Peg-a-Roo. Fix me a ham and cheese sandwich on rye with mayonnaise and some potato chips and a cup of coffee. Bring them to me in bed. I’ve had a stomachache all day, but I just took my temperature, and it is ninety-eight point six.”
I was sixty years old, and had flown into Jacksonville, Florida the day before to visit my eighty-six year old mother in her brand-new cottage in a retirement center. I was blind and had no idea where the refrigerator was, let alone the ham, the cheese, the rye bread, the mayonnaise, or the instant coffee.
I thought the kitchen was on my right, which turned out to be true, and I located a stove with a pot, a cup, and a jar of instant coffee on it. Momma had never owned a tea kettle. Feeling around carefully, I found a spigot and filled the pot halfway to the top with water.
“Well, I recently had a poem published in the retirement center magazine,” Momma said. “It was called ‘On Envy.'”
“I’ll read it to you in a minute. Out of 500 residents here, nobody even commented on it. Don’t you like some recognition?” Momma asked.
Momma must have turned on her Sirius radio, because it sounded like a Beethoven symphony was playing forth. I stood still for a moment. I wondered how Momma had handled my blindness without ever really saying how difficult it was for her.
Welcome to In The Freedom of Space, a memoir on overcoming blindness in a number of ways. I begin with a scene involving my 85-year old mother and a 60-year old me talking but avoiding the topic of my blindness. I then flashback to the tragic childhood scene in which I lost my sight as a 2-year old. Join me as I travel through my story.
“When all other freedoms are lost, we have one freedom left: The freedom to choose our own attitude.” ~Viktor Frankl